Meet the Midwife Who’s Delivered 12,000 Babies—Since She Was 12

See Madam Bwa in action in an exclusive clip from the documentary ‘Sister.’
Jan 9, 2015·
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

Most women in the Western world can safely welcome their little bundle of joy in a room full of state-of-the-art equipment and highly trained medical professionals. But in developing countries, childbirth can quickly turn into a life-threatening situation.

In Haiti, one in 44 women can die from delivery complications, compared with one in 48,000 American women, according to the World Health Organization.

That’s where health care workers such Philomene Jocien Gracias—who goes by the name Madam Bwa—come in. Known as a traditional birth attendant, 65-year-old Haitian Madam Bwa has delivered more than 12,000 babies over the past 53 years. Yep, she started her work as a midwife at the tender age of 12—and she has never had any professional medical training.

Madam Bwa is one of the featured health care workers in the documentary Sister, directed by Brenda Davis, which explores the risks and complications of maternal health in Ethiopia, Cambodia, and Haiti.

“God blessed me to serve the people in this community,” she says in this exclusive clip.

Madam Bwa shows off a couple of smiling children she helped bring into the world in years past. But not every delivery is so simple. Despite her best efforts, sometimes women need medical attention from a hospital. Such is the case with her latest patient, Madam Marc. Despite a successful delivery, the placenta refused to come out, putting Madam Marc in great pain and danger.

But there’s a reason the residents here look up to Madam Bwa as a leader: After imploring the community for money, searching for a car in the late evening hours, and banging down the hospital door, Madam Bwa found treatment for Madam Marc and was then able to reunite the now healthy mother with her baby.

Watch the clip above, and see the full documentary Sister on Amazon instant video and iTunes.